Each year, WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind) releases the WebAIM Million Report, which looks at the accessibility of the home pages of the top one million sites on the web. While the report only reviews home pages, it sheds light on the overall accessibility of the web as well.
This is the report’s fifth year, and, to be frank, it’s sad how little the improvement is from year to year.
What The Report Covers
To compile the report, the WebAIM tool WAVE scans each of the home pages. If you’ve already read Content for Everyone and the chapter “What Can You Find with an Accessibility Scan?” you know about WAVE and how we recommend creatives use it.
The WAVE tool only detects 20 to 25% of accessibility issues on a page (and this is true of any tool that runs an automated scan). While limited in scope, WAVE sheds light on aspects of accessibility that anyone who owns a website can improve.
WebAIM reported more than 49.9 million accessibility errors across the million pages this year. That’s an average of 50.0 errors per site. While WebAIM notes that the average number of errors per site dropped 1.6% from the 2022 report, it’s still a huge number of issues.
Here’s what makes me sad. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) have been around since 1999. Why in 2023 are there still so many errors? I feel it’s two-fold:
- For web professionals, there’s not enough time devoted to both accessibility education and integrating accessibility into the work that’s done.
- For everyone who uses the web, there isn’t enough education on what individuals can do to make their corner of the web accessible (of course Content for Everyone’s purpose is to give creatives the knowledge they need for this).
This year’s WebAIM Million report shows that 96.3% of the pages reviewed have WCAG failures. While it’s possible that a site can be substantially accessible and have failures, the top issues reported do create barriers for those with disabilities to engage with the content.
The Top Six Errors
Of all the errors detected, 96.1% fall into six categories:
- Low contrast text occurs on 83.6% of home pages.
This means that the color contrast between the background and text is less than the 4.5:1 that’s required for regular size text. Text that doesn’t have proper contrast can be difficult to read for those with low vision and some cognitive disabilities.
- Missing alternative text for images occurs on 58.2% of home pages.
Alternative text is necessary for assistive technologies to present information about images. Over half of the images missing alternative text were linked images, meaning that those links weren’t descriptive and therefore a barrier for some site visitors.
- Empty links occur on 50.1 percent of home pages.
This is similar to the scenario with linked images. Here, an empty link means that information about the link isn’t available to all users.
- Missing form input labels occur on 45.9% of home pages.
Proper form labeling is key to anyone using assistive technology to navigate a form and fill it out accurately.
- Empty buttons occur on 27.5% of home pages.
If a button is empty, an assistive technology user has no way of knowing what the function of the button is.
- Missing document language occurs on 18.6% of home pages.
Without the document language specified, assistive technology won’t know what language to present to users, which can cause misunderstandings.
Creatives: Check and Fix Your Home Page
You can certainly use the WAVE tool on your home page to see what you can fix. We cover in Content for Everyone what you can fix based on what WAVE reports.
Of the top six issues reported in The WebAIM Million, creatives should be able to fix four of them easily:
- Low contrast text
- Missing alternatives for text images
- Empty Links
- Missing document language.
We cover each of those elements in Content for Everyone. The missing form input labels and empty buttons are difficult to handle if you’re not a web developer. However, if you see those issues on your home page, it’ll be good for you to know they’re present and what’s causing them so you can make some informed choices.
Is Your Site in the Top Million?
I was curious if any creatives I routinely follow were in the top million report. I found four: TheCreativePenn.com, SelfPublishingFormula.com, SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com, PatFlynn.com. Other creatives I looked up, which mostly included authors and podcasters, didn’t make the cut. My websites also are not in the top million. On the WebAIM Million report page, you’ll find a site lookup form so you can search for your site and any others you want to review.
Regardless of if your site is in the top million, I hope you’ll take some time to review your home page for accessibility errors and to understand how it would rank if it were part of the report.
Use the report as a call to action to take the time to improve your home page so it can be as accessible as possible so a usable and inclusive page welcomes your site’s visitors.